Spicy Pi Bacon Squared Wins!

Woot! Mrs. Pontiff's entry into the Scienceblogs pie competition is the winner! Mrs. Pontiff is on a role. This year we decided not to buy each other gifts for Valentines day. So instead of buying a gift, Mrs. Pontiff entered a photo contest from a flower company and won me some beautiful flowers. We need to plan our trip to Las Vegas immediately.

Thanks to all who voted and to the dog for not jumping up and eating the pie off the table. And a special shout out to Bacon, is there anything it can't do?


Lisa: I'm going to become a vegetarian
Homer: Does that mean you're not going to eat any pork?
Lisa: Yes
Homer: Bacon?
Lisa: Yes, Dad.
Homer: Ham?
LIsa: Dad all those meats come from the same animal!
Homer: Right Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal!

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Congrats Dave. I voted for you, so I'm expecting you to bring some of this stuff to the next quantum meeting you go to!

Congrats! The pie is truly a superior comestible. Bacon brittle, all by itself, deserves to be commercialized.

I tried to vote for you -- twice! -- and both times it told me the survey was closed, even though Page 3.14 told me it was open.

So I'm glad you won, even without my help...

Anything with bacon is an automatic winner. This contest is just one more data point that falls right on the curve!

Once upon a time, an Iowa farmboy was digging a hog manure pit when he decided "There must be more to life than this ...".

And so that farmboy (eventually) got a PhD in theoretical physics. The farmboy found this upgrade to be roughly comparable to moving from an aisle seat (in passenger class) to an exit row seat (also in passenger class); worth doing, yet in surprisingly many respects, not all that radically different.

By the way, Dave, I don't think you've ever recommended The Great American Bacon Novel. May I humbly suggest Annie Proulx' That Old Ace in the Hole?.

Proulx' bitterly funny black comedy mentions the words "pig" and "hog" and "pork" and "bacon" more often that any other great American novel I can think of ...

... except for Walter R. Brooks equally magnificent Freddy the Pig series (for children). Brooks' hilarious books are *highly* recommended for bedtime reading, someday, when the young Bacons come along. :)

Perhaps the suiderati among us can suggest other bacon-oriented literary works of high merit?

Lest folks perceive that my Freddy the Pig post was joking (which often happens when I attempt to be serious), the Freddy the Pig series is very real, and in fact led to what (IMHO) is probably the longest article that the NYT has ever published wholly in praise of a pig: Paragon of Porkers: Remembering Freddy the Pig .

The Freddy series is highly recommended to those mathematicians, scientists, and engineers who are in elementary and middle school.

Understanding uncertainty: 2845 ways of spinning risk
by Mike Pearson and David Spiegelhalter


A good example to look at is the "bacon sandwich debate". A major report estimated that there was a 20% increased risk of bowel cancer if you eat 50g of processed meat every day â that's a large bacon sandwich. The Sun came up with the beautiful headline "Careless pork costs lives!", and other papers too seized on this result. The risk presented here is a relative risk and can sound quite frightening. For an average person, the chance of getting bowel cancer at some point in their life is around 5%. Now 20% of 5% is 1%, so a relative increase of 20% translates to a lifetime risk of 6%, or an increase of 1% in absolute risk, which now does not sound so bad.

Yet another way to think of this is to consider how many people would need to eat large bacon sandwiches all their life in order to lead to one extra case of bowel cancer. This final quantity is known as the number needed to treat (NNT), although in this context it would perhaps better be called the number needed to eat. To find the NNT, simply express the two risks (with and without whatever you are interested in) as decimals, subtract the smaller from the larger and invert: in this case we get 1/(0.06 - 0.05) = 100 â a hundred people would need to eat large bacon sandwiches all their lives in order for one extra case of bowel cancer to occur. Now the risk does not seem at all remarkable.

"... Column charts are again very popular, but as we see below, the perception of the importance of a change in risk can be manipulated by altering the scale of the column â the effect of eating bacon looks a lot larger in the second chart...."